One Saturday morning last fall a student went to a nearby school to take the SAT test because he was interested in attending an American University. “What surprised me most,” he said, “was that everyone there asked me, ‘What sport do you play?’ – as if I were heading to the USA on a sports scholarship. I guess most of the students’ taking the test were actually recruits.”
That student’s observations came back to me as I read about Simon Fraser University’s decision to join the NCAA. This means, of course, the SFU will be able to offer full scholarships, improve their level of athletic play, and compete on a regular basis in an American interscholastic league. Sounds good doesn’t it?
Such a move would also keep some of Canada’s finest student athletes in Canada while also saving the school money (SFU’s travel cost will go down dramatically because they’ll no longer travel throughout Canada and instead will play only schools in the American Northwest.) Despite all of the above, I think Simon Fraser should rethink this decision.
One of the charms of Canadian university sports is that they are amateur in the best sense of the word. Students play volleyball or hockey or tennis because they love the game. Once universities start offering money to students because of their athletic ability, there will be no going back. There will be a Canadian John Calipari before you know it, and we may someday pine for a more innocent if less lucrative sporting world.